Something strange happened to me today. Recently, when Peanut was born, Marcel hauled the cradle out of storage thinking Peanut could be its next occupant. Partly because CCAP and her boy didn’t need it, and partly because I felt obligated to return it to its rightful owner, it stayed in our house.
Ten years ago, the cradle made its way into our home. It was leant to us by Ed, a man I worked with at the time. “You can use it as long as you need it,” he’d said, with a twinkle in his eye, “but I may want it back some day if I have grandchildren.” His sons were in high school and university at the time – they weren’t even CLOSE to thinking about children.
Last night, I tried to phone Ed. I looked up his name in the phone book, and tried the number I thought might be his. I got a recorded announcement. Today, I phoned Suzanne, a friend of mine who still works in the place Ed and I worked ten years ago (he’s since retired), thinking she might be able to help me track him down.
“Strange you should call now,” said Suzanne. “I was just at Ed’s funeral. He died last month. He had a heart attack and died on his kitchen floor.”
Odd. I’ve had that cradle for 10 years, and for nearly 3 it has sat in our basement waiting to be returned. Why would I suddenly try to get in touch with Ed, after years of being out of touch with him, only a few weeks after he died?
I don’t think Ed even made it to sixty. I wonder if he ever had grandchildren.
I liked Ed. He was one of those affable people who’s fun to have around. He always had a joke up his sleeve, and usually, a smile on his face. For a short while, about 13 years ago, he was my boss. Later he became my colleague – my equal. I’m not sure why, but he used to call me “Heather-bell”. He was kind and generous. Life hadn’t always been kind to him – he’d lost his wife a few years before and had to raise his 2 sons alone. Early in our friendship, however, we shared a common experience - he was getting married around the same time I was.
In a strange way, Ed played a rather pivotal role in my life. It was from his lips that I first heard the term “World Wide Web”. His son was in university at the time, and he’d come home raving about something called the world wide web, where you could go onto a computer and look up stuff from all over the world. Ed had seen it with his own eyes. The university students at the time were dreaming about all that this might mean for the future – their future and the world’s.
Funny how this conversation stands out in my mind. I must have looked at him in disbelief. World Wide Web? What in the world was that? How could computers communicate with each other? And even if they could, what good would it do? Even as I asked the questions, though, I sensed that this was something important - which is probably why I remember the conversation.
Now here I am, only about 12 years later, and the world wide web has indeed changed our lives. This blog attests to that. Who’d have thought, when we first heard of the wonders of the internet, that just a few short years would see us all posting journal entries, shopping, researching, sharing pictures, and chatting online? Only 10 years ago, our first baby was born and made her way into that cradle. The only way we could share pictures with loved ones was through the mail. Now, a few short hours after my niece was born, I could e-mail her picture all over the world.
The cradle that Ed leant me now sits in my bedroom, reminding me of the passages of time. Two of Ed’s babies and three of mine have rested their little heads on its cushion. And now, its original owner has gone to meet his maker. The cradle hasn’t changed much in that time, but the world has. Those five babies who slept in that cradle face a different reality than we did when we were their age. I don't know if it's better or worse - just different.
When I watch my children fearlessly surf the world wide web, with the assumption of youth - that this is the only way it's ever been, I wonder what kind of passages their lives will see.
Addendum: I just found Ed’s obituary on-line. It turns out he was sixty-two. It doesn’t look like he had any grandchildren yet. Too bad. He would have been an awesome Grandpa.